Sitting around a campfire recently, a young man asked me what I thought about the new music services, Pandora and Spotify, and what kind of impact they were having on radio.
Well as someone truly invested in many ways in radio I unleashed a tirade of expletives, threw things at him and asked that he never mentioned those spineless varmints again. No. I really just said, ‘To be honest it’s the greatest time in the history of man to be alive and a music lover.”
Being that he was a tad younger than I, I was concerned about coming off like a cranky old man when I said, “You know I really wish I had similar opportunities to listen to music when I was growing up rather than having to mow the lawn to get enough money to buy The Who’s “Tommy” or put my (at the time) spotless arrest record to the test and try to cop the latest Yes album from E.J. Korvettes.”
Then I tried to explain further and offer some winnable advice. To begin, I much prefer the concept behind Spotify to Pandora. The difference reminds me of the scene in the greatest movie of all time “Diner,” when the musically ignorant girlfriend misfiles a few records much to the chagrin of the music lover she is dating. To her “Its just music.” To him it’s life itself.
The two biggest music services also seem to be drawing a similar line with their fans. Those who think ‘it’s just music’ tend to gravitate towards Pandora. They don’t mind picking an artist like Adele, and letting the algorithms do all the work. Occasionally stopping to look at their device to figure out who a new artist is. Spotify fans, on the other hand, tend to love the ability to program and play an entire album when they want. To me this is a superior choice as well.
Spotify allows for sampling of albums before you buy. Pandora sends you computerized coded music that keeps a similar beat and tempo to your desired artist. I always like to throw off Pandora with artist like Neil Young or Peter Gabriel. Artist who have produced such a wide range of sounds that Pandora seems lost while usually conjuring up matches of the artist’s most popular stuff. So in the case of Gabriel, I hear almost nothing aligned with his early solo records and nothing even approaching original Genesis. But that may be an article for another day.
To me, Pandora and Spotify are beginning to actually help Radio listening because musical taste are getting broaden. Casual fans tend to get bored with announcer free radio that lacks local content and information. They begin to feel ‘out of it. ‘
The music services have their place and there are few choices superior to Pandora when you are entertaining during a dinner party and Spotify offers a fine alternative to spending hundreds on records that you may never play again, but when it comes to having a musical companion or someone that shares the bond of music? Then Radio to me still carries the day.
The other note to consider is artist’s fees. Radio has been providing large paychecks to recording artist for years while most musicians these days are complaining bitterly about actual income being generated by the music services. To counter this, I saw buy concert tickets and lots of merchandise at the show directly from performers. It’s the best way to put money directly into their pockets.